Ben Eggers keeps notes in his desk to help with an important task at his seedstock cattle operation — naming the livestock. He’s always thinking of names that are fitting and will help market the animals.
“There’s two or three sheets of paper in my desk drawer,” he says. “When I think of the right name, I write it down.”
Eggers is the manager for Sydenstricker Genetics, based in Audrain County, Missouri. He works with Eddie Sydenstricker, whose father, Ralph, founded the operation in 1952. Eggers says a number of factors go into naming a bull.
“What we do is try to think of something that makes sense and includes the bull’s lineage,” he says.
For many bulls, this involves taking the sire’s name and adding a number, to give them their own unique tag. But for some of the best bulls, they get a unique name that still has ties to their sire. For example, Eggers recalls a successful bull named Fortune, and they named his best son Fame.
“(We had to decide) which one got to be named Fame and which one was Fortune 5,000-something,” he says.
Other names reflect histories. Eggers says they had a top-selling bull named Colonel, and they knew he had been named for a particular auctioneer, so they named a son Gavel.
Names that invoke success are often popular for bulls, and Eggers says names that can fit into advertising efforts are helpful. A bull named Exceed gives marketing options.
“He continues to ‘exceed’ expectations,” Eggers says, giving an example.
Exceed sired a bull named Enhance, a name that calls to mind his lineage, Eggers says.
He also tries not to get too complicated.
“We like to be as unique as possible, and we try to be as short as possible,” he says.
Naming livestock can be a team effort, and Eggers says he asks family and workers on the farm what they think of certain names and how they sound. He also works with clients on naming livestock sometimes.
“A lot of times it’s a team process,” he says. “Is it spell-able, is it sayable?”
The bull names can often pay homage to sports figures. Eggers recalls a bull named Denver, and names of his offspring included Manning and Peyton, after quarterback Peyton Manning, who won a Super Bowl while playing for the Denver Broncos. Another son of Denver was named Volunteer, since Peyton Manning played college football for the Tennessee Volunteers, and another was named Omaha, a word the quarterback would famously yell to signal plays.
Eggers says it is less common to think of creative names for the females, although a bull named Rock Star had several of his daughters named for famous rock stars, including Jagger after the singer of the Rolling Stones.
Eggers says his advisors can keep him reined in.
“I’ve always wanted to name one Meat Loaf, but my wife kind of killed that,” he says with a laugh.
The work of naming livestock extends to youth livestock exhibitors. Jerry Kaibe, a freshman at Eldon High School in Eldon, Missouri, says the name for his market hog came to him right away.
“I named him Chubbs,” he says. “Because he was big, funny and did not run like a normal pig. He fell over when he stopped running. When I looked at him, my first thought was, ‘Your name is Chubbs.’”
Jonathan Bax, a junior at Eldon, says naming by appearance is a reliable approach.
“I named my steer Rusty because he is a rusty red color,” he says. “I usually name them based on their appearance.”
Morghan Crane, a student at Paris, Missouri, likes to use names that go together.
“We sometimes use themes for the names of our pigs. A couple of years ago they were all named after gemstones, Opal, Diamond and Ruby,” she says.
Reid Ragadale, also a student at Paris, says sometimes the names come with the animal.
“Sometimes I use names for my show steers that come with them when I buy them,” he says. “This year’s steer was named by a 5-year-old kid: Noodle.”